Paul Ernest, an award-winning photographer based in Dallas, says, “If you give me a tank of gas, no schedule and a camera I’ll find somewhere to go that doesn’t have pavement.” This seemingly aimless wandering is not so aimless. Ernest is looking for the perfect landscape setting to create an evocative composition.
“I’m big into allegory and realism, specifically the work of painters like Andrew Wyeth,” he says. “It’s like Wyeth starts a sentence for the viewer to finish, so I look for things that are thought-provoking.”
Ernest explains that when he found a picture-perfect landscape off the beaten path on a rural dirt road near Dallas he wasn’t sure where the scene would take him. Ultimately it brought him a Best Color Image and the LexJet Sunset Award at the Southwest PPA print competition.
The final image, entitled The Recital, was inspired by a dog named Charlie. Charlie is owned by Ernest’s mentor, David Edmonson, and seemed the perfect audience for a backwoods retro recital along a country dirt road.
So, Ernest shot some photos of Charlie then turned to the head of the local historical society who had just the look Ernest was after as the cello player. The first trick in composing a scene like this, says Ernest, is to shoot in similar lighting so that the reflective surfaces match the broad plane of the landscape scene.
“Once I’ve blended the images I use a propriety texturing effect I’ve come up with, detail the signature elements, dodge and burn and then it’s pretty much complete,” says Ernest. “The shadow of the chair on the ground was actually the most challenging element in The Recital.”
Ernest says his compositions have opened up additional opportunities with his portrait clientele who want something totally unique they can’t get elsewhere. “A lot of people didn’t get into photography in the past because of the chemical element and having to wait for that image to develop. The technology has made it more accessible and leveled the playing field. What we’re seeing now is that in order to set yourself apart, you have to create extraordinary images and include a fine-art aspect to your work to maximize its appeal,” says Ernest.
Ernest is scheduled to present at WPPI 2012 in Las Vegas, Feb. 16-17, so if you’re there you’ll want to check out his seminar. For more information about his work, go to www.paulernestphotography.com.